Discover Belfast: Avril from School Gate Style tells us her favourite things about Belfast

This week we asked Avril Keys for her 5 favourite things in Belfast. Avril runs the blog, School Gate Style. This very popular blog is a fashion diary of an ordinary mum of three, who wears practical affordable clothes. It’s definitely one to check out.

We love reading our guest bloggers five favourite things to do in Belfast. There is always a curveball in there which takes us by surprise, and these 5 from Avril certainly have a curveball!

Here they are:

Whitehall Tobacco Works
I never complain about being stuck at the traffic lights at Sandy Row/Linfield Road because I have this gorgeous building to admire. I love that the name is built into the fabric of it – so no matter what it ends up being used as, its original purpose can never be forgotten and it’s such a non-PC purpose too – there will never be a tobacco works built again. I’ve never been in the building and I don’t even know if it’s currently used for anything. Off the beaten track this a stunning piece of architecture and a piece of Belfast history.


Sir Thomas & Lady Dixon Park
Belfast has amazing parks but ‘Lady Dixon’ as it’s known as, happens to be the one closest to me. It’s a park with so much going on..the traditional garden, the rose displays, the Lagan towpath & the beautiful wooded areas but one of my favourite parts is the red bricked wall where Sir Thomas & Lady Dixon buried their pets. It’s the one place where you can appreciate the people who actually lived in the park – for whom it was their home for many years. And it’s a reminder of their legacy & how fortunate we are to have this space to use freely.

The Top of Cave Hill

IMG_3405.JPGEvery time I go to climb Cavehill, I experience a range of emotions. Excitement at the prospect of a peaceful walk in the fresh air, trepidation when I glance up at the top and realise I’m headed that direction, regret when I’m half way up and realise how unfit I am, fear as I approach the last 20% and realise I’ve no puff left but I’m further from the bottom than the top….and then elation when I finally get to stop at the top and admire the panoramic view. There’s a feeling of needing an ambulance at the top too…but it passes eventually – once I’ve sat down for 20 minutes to catch my breath. Definitely the best view of Belfast and achievable for most people within about 60-90 minutes. You can’t say that about many walks with a view like that.

George’s Market on a Sunday

I know I’m not alone with this one but I have very specific favourites in my visit to the Market. First up, I have to buy cupcakes from the Lily Pink Bakery. I don’t usually eat cupcakes but Claire’s are officially THE best in Belfast and they are a regular treat for us. Secondly, I get my Javaman Latte. I’ve tried them all and this remains the BEST latte in the city. No competition. Next up, and I’m not just saying this, I always check out Jeff’s Belfast Time’s stand and pick up a few greetings cards for upcoming occasions before finally calling to my friend Pearl’s stall ‘Hidden Pearls’ for a nosy at her gently used designer clothes. Blog research of course 🙂

The Merchant Hotel
I used to work in Ulster Bank so I have some lovely memories from the building when it was the Waring Street branch of the bank and home of many of the bank’s internal departments, including Legal & HR – or Personnel as it was known back then. I had job interviews where there are now luxury bedrooms and counted coin and foreign exchange in the underground Cash Centre – now a nightclub. I remember visiting the building just before it was sold and wandering around the old banking hall and managers office, empty & dusty but with the most stunning fireplaces, ceilings and floors. It was such a pleasure to visit the finished hotel and see it restored to its former glory. A gin & tonic in the cocktail bar (previously the bank’s foreign exchange dealing room) is a Belfast necessity.


For more information and to follow Avril, why not check out her website at

Post Author: Belfast Times

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